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How To Get a Bartending License

how to get a bartending license

Some U.S. states require you to get a bartending license to work as a Bartender. In this article, you’ll find out in which of them obtaining it is mandatory and how to do it.

What Is a Bartending License?

A bartending license is an official document that proves you’ve completed a recognized program for Bartenders in your state. It qualifies you to serve alcoholic beverages in open containers for immediate consumption in a bar, restaurant or similar establishment. It also shows that you understand all practices for serving alcohol responsibly and know how to react in alcohol-related situations.

What States Require a Bartending License?

The U.S. doesn’t have a nationally-recognized law regarding required licenses for Bartenders. Instead, the laws vary by state and are not limited to those where a license is strictly mandatory and not. Let’s break it down this way:

  • 18 out of 50 states in the U.S. require all Bartenders to receive training and earn a license to work behind the bar and serve alcoholic beverages.
  • 7 out of 50 states in the U.S. have different laws regarding bartending licenses on a county level.
  • 2 out of 50 states in the U.S. have different laws regarding bartending licenses depending on the age of the employee.
  • 23 out of 50 states in the U.S. don’t require individuals to hold a license to work as a Bartender.

States that require a bartending license are:

AlaskaCaliforniaDelaware
IllinoisIndianaLouisiana
MontanaNevadaNew Mexico
OklahomaOregonPennsylvania
Rhode IslandTennesseeUtah
VermontWashingtonWisconsin

States in which the laws vary by county and age are:

By County:

  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Wyoming

By Age:

  • Alabama
  • South Dakota

If you’re based in one of these states, it’s necessary to look up local regulations and ensure you meet all of them before you start applying.

How Much Is a Bartending License in Each State?

The cost of obtaining your bartending license also varies by the state you’re based in. It also depends on the type of bartending school you choose to enroll in.

Schools that offer classroom training and teach mixology charge higher than those that let you take an online course.

Typically, the cost of getting a license online is between $9 and $40. If you want to receive practical training while earning your license, the cost may range between $300 and $1,600.

What Are the Requirements To Be a Bartender?

To be a Bartender, you need to meet the age requirement in your state. Some states allow establishments to hire candidates as young as 18 or 19 for the role of a Bartender. In others, the minimum age for the role is 21.

Some states also have laws that prohibit establishments from hiring Bartenders who have been charged with a felony in recent years. Again, the laws regarding the duration for how long a felony charge can impact employment vary by state.

Additionally, some establishments require you to have a bartending certification even if the state doesn’t have any laws regarding it. They prefer to bring in certified candidates who are trained in responsible alcohol service and often possess mixology skills. Some states even incentivize establishments to hire certified Bartenders by reducing potential penalties and liability costs.

bartender serving drinks

How Long Does It Take To Get a Bartending License?

There are two types of bartending schools you can enroll in to earn your license. Some of them offer 40-hour practical training programs and cover all essential skills a Bartender needs, as well as selling alcohol responsibly. Others offer online courses and only cover the latter. They serve mostly for legal purposes and can be completed in as little as a few hours.

How To Get a Bartending License Online?

To get your bartending license online, you need to find an online bartending course that is approved by your state. Once you go through the material, you take a final exam and after passing, you receive your bartending license.

How Long Is a Bartending License Good for?

Like all the other laws regarding the service of alcohol, the years your bartending license is good for depends on your state. Typically, these licenses are valid for two to five years.

When renewing your license, you’ll either have to complete another training program or re-register with the state.

Which TIPS Certification Course Do I Need?

tips logo

TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) certification is approved nationwide and completing it can grant you a bartending license. Still, it’s important to read all the details regarding the course designed for your state as some of them don’t meet all the legal requirements.

The TIPS courses are designed to sell or serve drinks while promoting responsible consumption. It teaches you federal and state laws regarding alcohol and covers topics such as recognizing fake IDs and de-escalating difficult alcohol-related situations.

TIPS courses that are approved in states that require bartending licenses are called TIPS On Premise courses. To sell alcoholic beverages in liquor stores, you need to take a TIPS Off Premise course designed for your state. Additionally, there are specific courses for those serving drinks in gambling and concession establishments.

The cost of taking the course through the official website varies by state and course type.

Benefits of a Bartender License

Enrolling in a bartending school and completing training is a good way to kick-start your Bartender Career. Depending on your state, you may not even be able to get hired for the role unless you’re a licensed Bartender.

Even if your state doesn’t require a license, attending an alcohol server program can open up employment opportunities in the industry. Establishments will see you as a more hireable candidate due to the skills you’ve acquired and you’ll stand out among other candidates.

Moreover, establishments prefer to bring in individuals who are trained to serve alcoholic beverages responsibly and know what to do in all alcohol-related situations.

Obtaining a license can also serve as a foundation for your professional development. Even the top Bartenders say it’s a great way to get foundational knowledge before you start learning through hands-on experience.

Many Bartenders also attend ongoing education programs to continuously improve their skills and stay up-to-date with recent trends.

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